You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Video Transcribed: What is the Miranda warning and when does it apply? My name is Brian L. Jackson. I am a Tulsa lawyer with the Wirth Law Office. I want to talk to you today about Miranda. What is the Miranda warning and when does it apply?
The Miranda decision, which is actually Miranda v. Arizona, is probably one of the most well-known criminal procedure decisions out there. Everybody knows about the Miranda warning, and most people have a lot of misconceptions about when it does and doesn’t apply.
One of the most common things you’ll see on any police procedural or really any television show that showed somebody getting arrested is you’ll see that person getting read the Miranda warning. And what is the Miranda warning?
You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. And, of course, the admonition that anything you say can, will be used against you in a court of law and the admonition that if you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
The reality is the police do not have to Mirandize you if they’re going to arrest you. Miranda applies in one specific situation, and that is if you are talking about a custodial interrogation. What is a custodial interrogation? Well, this is an interrogation where you are, obviously, you’re not free to go. You’re in police custody.
That could mean you’re being brought into an interview room. It could mean you’re in the jailhouse. In some cases, it can even mean you’re cuffed by the side of the road. But essentially, the main element here is that you are not free to go. This is no longer a voluntary encounter. That’s the first component.
And then the second component is there has to be an interrogation, and the courts have normally held that an interrogation involves some action, whether it’s questioning or other things, done by the police designed to get you to make some kind of an incriminating statement.
So some examples of this, obviously questioning, if the police sit in front of you and discuss the case, knowing that it’s going to cause you to spill what you know. There is actually a case out there where an officer didn’t even ask any questions but spent a car ride that he had alone with a criminal suspect discussing how the victim of a particularly grizzly murder deserved a Christian burial. That was actually found to be an interrogation, and it was a violation of that man’s right to remain silent.
So that’s when Miranda applies. It doesn’t necessarily apply if you’re being arrested. Now, if the police arrest you and start to question you, then they should Mirandize you; that is they read you the warning. But if they’re just arresting you and you’re stupid enough to blurt something out, Miranda may not help you. To understand it doesn’t always apply when you think it applies.
Another important situation where it probably does not apply, and you need to be aware of this, is during a standard traffic stop. If you’re sitting in your car, the cops walk up to your window and ask you, “Do you know why I stopped you?” They do not have to Miranda you in that situation.
The courts have generally held that a simple traffic stop is equivalent to what they refer to as a Terry stop, and basically what that is, is it’s a very brief stop for the purposes of a limited investigation. And that generally does not trigger a situation where a Miranda warning is necessary. So be aware of that and shut your mouth.
If you have questions about the Miranda warning or you’re the subject of a criminal investigation or anything like that, you need legal assistance right now. And one place you can get legal assistance is by going to makelaweasy.com.